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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Attack of the "Best" Lists-- Becky's Advice to Stay Ready and Look Smart

This time of year is exciting with the holidays approaching and “Best of the Year” lists coming fast and furious.  Best lists are both one of the best things about our job and one of the most frustrating; however, if you listen to me, I will help you to turn all of the frustration into a success story-- one that will make you and your library look like book super stars.

Let me start with how Best Lists help us, library workers who help leisure readers.
  1. We love books and get excited about what is deemed the best.  As cool as we try to play it, we are like kids in a candy store when best lists come out. We are all comparing our reading lists to see which we have already read, which are on our to-read lists, which books we feel didn’t deserve to be deemed best, and most importantly, which books we feel were snubbed. This is pure fun for us since our job involves leisure reading.
  2. Best lists get our patrons psyched up too.  They start coming back into the library to look for these great books that they may have missed. We are relevant to them [for the moment], which makes us feel good.
  3. Since best lists get patrons more excited about books and reading, they are also more willing to engage us in a conversation about what they are reading. This is the best time of year to practice our book talking and RA conversation skills.
Now the frustrations.
  1. There are so many lists and they start coming at us before Halloween. It is a lot to handle.
  2. All of those patrons coming in are only interested in the “best” books and of course, many of those are checked out.
  3. We often feel like we have lost the opportunity to shine because of their disappointment. The best list barrage can make us feel like failures. :(
These are real frustrations, but I have helpful answers.

First, take advantage of the huge number of best lists and don’t see them as overwhelming, rather use them to your advantage.  There are SO many of them, you should be able to find a book that someone deemed best this year.  Often, patrons aren’t looking for a specific “best book” even though they come in asking for a specific title. They actually are just looking for a book that someone said was good enough for them to spend their time reading.

So take a step back and think about that last statement.  The patrons are all clamoring for Fates and Furies or Between the World and Me and you know it will be 2016 before a copy is available, but what they actually want is something good to read. They figure a “best” book is a safe bet.

Do not think of this as a lost opportunity or failure because the specific title has a long holds queue.  Instead, engage the patron in conversation about finding them a “best” book that is both ready right now AND is tailor fit to their reading tastes.  9 times out of 10, the patron in front of you has NO IDEA that you will provide this level of customized service for them. They will be so happy for your help.

But how do you do it> Remember frustration #1, so many lists to keep track of.  Well that’s where I come in, to give you 1 easy link to all of the best lists.

Since 2008, the website Largehearted Boy has kept the best and most comprehensive list of all of the best books lists.  All can be easily access here. The 2015 one is already well underway. 

So you start with this year’s lists, but as I said above, that often is limiting because they are checked out. But, as I have said before on this blog, the fact that the library has the BACKLIST is what makes us look like superheroes. We still have most of the past 10 year’s “best” books in our stacks [at least that far back].

One click to Largehearted Boy’s archive and you have many years of best lists at your finger tips.  I have had tons of luck moving patrons coming in for the top books for the current year to the previous year’s best lists.  Just a few simple reminders-- that these were last year’s best and often, they are still on the paperback best seller list, and offering to put this year’s best on hold while they are reading a book from last year’s list that I can place in their hand right this second-- can go a long way toward creating happy, satisfied patrons.

Again, you need to remember that they just want a “best” book. Most of them do not care when it was “best.” Trust me. I have done this switcharoo dozens of times over the last 15 years.  People love it. They often feel like they got a “secret” best book when it is one I found from a previous year’s list. Even the grumpy lady who insists she will only read Fates and Furies or Between the World and Me, will love being in on a secret best list [as long as her hold is also placed for this year’s titles].

Try this advice and you will have an awesome end to the year at your library. You will have helped your adult leisure readers brilliantly.  They will tell their friends how nice and smart you were. And you will have handled the attack of the best lists with grace and skill.

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